We now know the identity of the semi finalists for the Louis Vuitton Cup. Matthew Sheahan reports
The crew of Desafio Espanol found it difficult to concentrate today and were destroyed in their race against BMW Oracle.
“To tell you the truth, when we saw that Team New Zealand had got ahead, we forgot our race”, said Desafio Espanol’s Miguel Jauregui laughing, as much through relief, as through the bizarre nature of the team’s success.
On the penultimate day of racing, the Spanish had been up against BMW Oracle while their closest opponents, the Swedish Victory Challenge were racing the Kiwis. A Spanish win or a Swedish loss, today’s result assured the home team an entry into the semi finals. While the Spanish were considered unlikely to win against their ever more powerful opponents, the Swedish were doing their best to worry Desafio Espanol as they out performed the Kiwis at the start and led up the first beat.
Some may say that the Swedes were handed the start on a plate when the Kiwis appeared to get disorientated in the start box and mis-timed their run back into the line, crossing a staggering 18 seconds behind the Swedes.
“The key was in the start and we should have absolutely thrashed them,” said Victory bowman Pepe Ribes. “We were 15 seconds ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand but it wasn’t enough because their boat is very fast, they are possibly the best on the fleet for tacking. But if Emirates have starts like they did today, they wont reach the final.”
By the top mark they had closed the gap down to 10 seconds, but Victory Challenge weren’t looking like they were in any mood to hand their lead back. At least not until further down the run when they gybed away, convinced they had seen more breeze to their right. By the time they came back the Kiwis had taken an 8 second lead. The game from there on only went one way with Barker and his crew taking a win by 34 seconds at the finish.
The Spanish were racing on the same course as the Kiwis and Swedes, starting just 10 minutes behind them, providing them with a perfect view of the Spanish entry into the semi finals when the Kiwis took their win.
Justifying the team’s position in the most sought after spot so far Jauregui said, “We are in the semi finals because we won a lot of races before.”
A good and valid point, but there can be no doubt that their progression this far was rarely certain. But none of this mattered to the crowds, including Valencia’s Mayorress Rita Barbara, who had all gathered around the harbour to celebrate the local success. Indeed, for those that didn’t know any different it might have appeared that the Spanish had just won the Cup. There were certainly enough of the crew thrown off the dock to suggest that big celebrations were about to happen.
But the reality is that the Spanish have little time to celebrate. The final race of Round Robin 2 takes place tomorrow. Just five days later the semi finals begin.
“I’m sure that we are going to be a strong team in the semi finals,” he continued. “We know that our work starts tomorrow in our match against Luna Rossa and we have to win that one.”
“Because we want to be in the finals, we haven’t stopped here. We have to win every race from here on. Every win gives the team more power.”
So what of the Swedes? Winning all of their last three races looked unlikely, but with such a spirited performance and coming so close to keeping their dream alive today, losing must have felt pretty difficult.
“Sure, even now as the time has passed and we stand on the shore the disappointment is a bit easier to deal with,” said tactician Stefan Rahm. “We really wanted to get into the semis to put some pressure on the big teams.”
Which raises another issue for those still in. Tomorrow (Wed) sees the big head to head match between the Kiwis and BMW Oracle Racing. Whoever wins this race gets to chose their opponents in the semis. Who would you pick?
Selecting the weakest player in the group would seem the obvious choice and that would most likely mean the Spanish. But there’s another school of thought that says, if you want to go all the way and win the Cup, why mess about racing a weaker team, you’d need to be as strong as possible before you met the Defender. Prestigious though it is, the Louis Vuitton Cup is not the America’s Cup.
Furthermore, with so many delays to racing, fewer races sailed on proper AC sized courses in conditions that will more closely replicate those expected for the match, a confident Challenger will need the very best in competition in similar conditions to beef up for the big day. So here’s a theory.
If Emirates Team New Zealand beats BMW Oracle Racing, they will pick the Spanish as their opponents. If the American team wins, they will pick the Kiwis.
We may know the answer after racing tomorrow, or at the latest some time on Thursday.
Whatever the outcome, expect plenty of speculation to follow.
WHO BEAT WHO?
Plus 39 BEAT China Team
Areva BEAT United Internet Team Germany
Luna Rossa BEAT Mascalzone Latino
Emirates Team New Zealand BEAT Victory Challenge
BMW Oracle Racing BEAT Desafio Espanol
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